In one clean stroke, NLEX scaled two team milestones Wednesday in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Their 93-85 victory over Barako Bull was the Road Warriors’ first over the Energy and also gave the former their first-ever 2-0 start in only their fourth conference with the league.
Ageless Asi Taulava punctuated his ascent in the all-time list of rebounders by notching 11 boards to go with a team-high 14 points while helping fuel NLEX’s decisive break from a tight ballgame.
Taulava, 42, now has a 17-season total of 5,389 rebounds that pushed him past Philip Cezar in the 41-year-old league’s list. He is fifth behind Ramon Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Jerry Codinera and Alvin Patrimonio.
Mark Cardona, Kevin Alas, Sean Anthony and Enrico Villanueva also put up significant numbers as NLEX followed up its initial 90-86 win over Blackwater to join idle Rain or Shine at the top of the 12-man field.
Road Warriors coach Boyet Fernandez praised his players for the modest milestone, notwithstanding their listless start for the second straight game.
“We haven’t done this, open up with two straight wins. Credit to the players even though we started flat,” said Fernandez, whose team trailed by as much as 12-25 in the opening quarter.
“We never executed our gameplan,” added Fernandez. “It seems we wanted to finish the game right away.”
The Road Warriors did gather their acts together in the second half, marked by a 13-3 surge from the game’s last deadlock at 60, before putting the game to bed through a 15-11 exchange in the last four minutes.
“At halftime I told them we just have to make stops one at a time,” related Fernandez. “True enough we made the stops and also executed well in our offense.
“We’re happy to get this. Hopefully we can continue this.”
Barako veterans JC Intal and Willie Wilson each netted 16 points with the latter also hauling down 17 boards and issuing six assists.
The rest of the Energy, however, failed to deliver as expected and prevented them from opening up their season on a bright note.
NLEX 93 – Taulava 14, Cardona 12, Alas 11, Anthony 11, Villanueva E. 10, Borboran 8, Camson 8, Villanueva J. 8, Khobuntin 7, Enciso 4, Apinan 0, Arboleda 0, Lanete 0, Reyes 0.
BARAKO 85 – Intal 16, Wilson 16, Pennisi 11, Garcia 10, Cruz 7, Miranda 7, Urbiztondo 7, Baracael 4, Monfort 3, Lanete 2, Sorongon 2, Forrester 0, Fortuna 0.
Quarters: 18-25, 38-45, 73-63, 93-85